Photo: Judge Pat Clark, swears in Carl Thibodeaux as Orange County Judge last Friday, March 29, in the 128th District Courtroom.

Dave Rogers

For The Record

Retired District Judge Pat Clark was about to swear in Carl Thibodeaux for his sixth term as Orange County Judge last week, prefacing his remarks with, “My wife told me to watch what you say.”

“What I will say is ‘Look at us two Democrats up here.’”

After being tapped last Wednesday to replace Dean Crooks as Orange County Judge and after being sworn in last Friday, Thibodeaux officially took his seat early in Tuesday’s commissioners’ court meeting.

County Judge Pro-Tem John Gothia presided over the first two agenda items: setting the amount of the bond all elected officials must file at $1,000, then approving the bond.

Then Thibodeaux, elected to five four-year terms as Orange County Judge from 1995 to 2014, took over.

At that moment, Thibodeaux became the first Democrat to serve on commissioners’ court since 2014, when he retired.

“When I left here four years ago, I was the last Democratic judge to sit in that chair. I never changed parties, despite the pressures that were put on me,” Thibodeaux said.

Orange County Republican party leaders applied pressure to the four Republican commissioners to appoint anyone but a Democrat, several commissioners confirmed.

But they felt that Thibodeaux, with his two decades of experience at the job, was the man to take over after Crooks’ sudden March 19 resignation and help the county through this summer’s budgeting process.

“I want to make it clear that these individuals did not appoint a Republican or Democratic county judge to fill the empty spot,” Thibodeaux said after commissioners’ voted 4-0 vote on March 27 to make the partial-term appointment. “They appointed someone who is truly in love with Orange County that will put 110 percent into everything we do here to keep the county moving forward.

“I want to be part of the group that keeps the county going. It’s a job for me. I work hard. I apply everything I have into it. And I feel like, that’s why I got the appointment.

“In regards to party affiliation, I really have none. That’s over with.”

Besides setting and approving bond for Thibodeaux, the commissioners, with Thibodeaux leading, voted 5-0 to do the same for new Precinct 1 Constable Lannie Claybar.

Chris Humble, left, who has retired as Orange County Precinct 1 Constable, stands next to his replacement, Deputy Lannie Claybar, during the Wednesday, March 27 county commissioners’ court meeting.

Claybar, who had been bailiff in the 128th District Court,  was appointed by Precinct 1 Commissioner Johnny Trahan during the same March 27 meeting that saw Judge Thibodeaux named.

He is replacing Chris Humble, who retired from the county to take a security job with the Stark Foundation.

Tuesday’s afternoon for the commissioners began with a public hearing for a “mass gathering” permit request by the Mauriceville Heritage Festival, which is set for May 3-4.

The permit is routine, though Festival representative Chris Sowell promised the best Mauriceville festival ever.

More than 12,000 pounds of crawfish have been ordered, compared to 8,000 ordered from last year.

Sowell said a crawfish cookout already had more than 15 teams have already signed up, one coming from as far away as Bastrop in Central Texas.

Their recipe is unique, Sowell said, incorporating cilantro and Italian dressing.

“That sounds weird, but it’s pretty good,” he said.

The festival will include a pageant and two shows on Saturday by Gator Country.

It’s all-you-can-eat crawfish from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 4 with entertainment topped by George Dearborn.

Gates open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, May 3, and from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 4.

After Thibodeaux’s bond was OK’d commissioners’ court business continued with $339,000 approved to pay the weekly bills and a long discussion on rebuilding the Precinct 2 commissioners’ office in Mauriceville.

Tropical Storm Harvey put a foot of water into the building in August of 2017.

Kurt Guidry, the county buildings maintenance director, said the county had already received $107,202 to rebuild the building but was waiting for FEMA paperwork to determine how much FEMA will pay of an estimated $188,000 needed to elevate the site three feet above flood level.

Commissioners voted to send the paperwork to FEMA immediately to expedite “finding out how much the county needs to pay out of general funds.”

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office won approval of transferring $21,300 from drug forfeiture funds to purchase a “Throwbot 2,” robot to help keep deputies safe by doing their advance scouting.

That’s a similar reason given for adding another $20,000 robot last year. Deputies are currently training to fly three drones costing $25,000 also to keep deputies safe.

All the electronics were purchased with drug forfeiture funds.